For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
How weird that K-11 is attracting more attention for who the director is (the mother of Twilight
starlet Kristen Stewart) than for its outlandish subject matter
(transgendered inmates). That oversight is as insane as this movie, new to VOD.
Music producer Raymond Saxx (Goran Visnjic, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has a drinking-and-drugging problem, which earns him an even bigger problem by Beverly Hills PD’s finest: a stay inside the titular ward of the L.A. County Jail. Dubbed by one of its residents as a "sanctuary for broken toys," it’s the big cement room where the po-po segregate the homosexuals.
As he’s introduced to his new temporary home, Saxx is warned to beware the women in there, "because there are no women here." It’s swarming with transvestites and transsexuals, all lorded over by Mousey, who’s anything but. Mousey (Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, brave and ballsy) is a terrifying presence, all scowls and pencilled eyebrows.
Loosely plotted, K-11 works best as depicting the inner workings of life behind bars, if exaggerated. Like many a women-in-prison picture of a bygone era, viewers get the expected scenes involving showers, sex and substances, but Jules Stewart’s directorial debut reflects more modern times with homemade tattoos and impromptu fashion shows.
What these elements add up to, if anything, is questionable. The film seems to be an exercise in excess. It’s too shapeless to make any tangible statement, which is kind of a surprise given the elder Stewart’s 25-year career as a script supervisor; this is also her first produced screenplay, which she has co-written with fellow neophyte Jared Kurt. Its ending leaves viewers asking, “And?”
Still, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained up to that point. Although ostensibly a drama, K-11 strikes me as a wickedly dark comedy. At least that how it’s played by del Castillo and some of the more able bodies among the cast, most notably Kevin Smith fixture Jason Mewes, as good as ever; Tiny Lister (Deebo of the Friday flicks) as a big ol’ baby of a child molester; and cake-taking Taken 2’s D.B. Sweeney as a corrupt sheriff’s deputy who treats those behind bars as a kid does candy behind glass: They all look so tasty!
Certainly, this bizarro circus is poised to be a cult favorite among the LGBT set, but it’s campy and kooky enough that it extends way beyond mere niche product. —Rod Lott